Contested and Uncontested Divorce
Alabama law allows for either contested or uncontested divorce, whether based on fault such as adultery, abandonment or domestic violence, or the no-fault ground that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. In uncontested divorces, we can help the parties negotiate and draw up the marital settlement agreement and other matters, and we can prepare and file the necessary documents to officially dissolve the marriage in the courts. Where the property division, payment of spousal maintenance, or issues of child custody or support are contested, our experienced civil litigators provide solid, effective representation in court with the client’s best interests in mind. Our family law practice includes advice and representation in all of the following matters:
Child Custody – Having both parents share custody of the children through a joint custody arrangement is the most favored approach in Alabama, but the court can grant custody solely to one parent if convinced such a decision is in the child’s best interests. The court looks at a variety of factors to determine how to award custody, including the child’s relationship with each parent, the distance between the two parents’ residences, their ability to communicate and cooperate with each other and encourage a meaningful relationship between the child and the other parent, and any history of domestic violence by a parent, which could include spousal abuse or child abuse.
The judge can make different decisions regarding physical custody (whom the child lives with) and legal custody (who has authority to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing). Being represented by a zealous and effective advocate is essential to getting a child custody arrangement that is best for you and your children.
Child Support – Child support in Alabama is calculated according to statutory guidelines and a formula that takes both parents’ incomes into account and assigns financial responsibility in proportion to income. The noncustodial parent is then expected to pay that guideline amount to the parent with primary custody. Other factors which can affect the amount of child support include the child custody arrangement, the costs of transportation required for visitation, and special needs of the child.
The judge can deviate from the guideline amount when it would be in the best interest of the child. We can help you if you are seeking or challenging a deviation from the guideline amount, and can also help insure that both spouse’s incomes from all sources are being fully and accurately reported, which is vital to a proper child support award.
Alimony – Also known as spousal maintenance or spousal support, alimony is an amount of money which the judge can order one divorcing spouse to pay to the other, either in a lump sum or over a period of time. Alimony can be ordered for a temporary period to help a former spouse get the necessary education or job training to be self-sufficient, or it may be used to reimburse one spouse for contributions made during the marriage to the other spouse’s education or career. The court can also make a long-term or even permanent award of maintenance in the case of divorce following a lengthy marriage.
Alimony is not automatic and must be requested by one party in the divorce before the court will grant it. The other party may oppose the motion in court. In that case, the judge will look at a number of factors to decide whether alimony should be granted and what the amount should be. If seeking or opposing a maintenance award in your divorce, we can provide the sort of knowledgeable, skilled representation necessary to put forward a compelling and convincing argument in favor of your position.
Property Division – The judge in an Alabama divorce will make an “equitable distribution” of the marital property, which basically includes all assets and debts acquired by the spouses during the marriage, with some notable exceptions. The property division does not have to be equal to be equitable, but it needs to be fair. The court typically looks at a handful of different factors in deciding the property division, such as the needs and earning potential of each spouse, the length of the marriage, the standard of living during the marriage, and any marital misconduct of either spouse.
The family law attorneys at Cobb, Boyd, White & Cobb can help make sure your interests are fairly represented in the division of marital property, whether through a negotiated martial settlement agreement or in litigation. We use our expertise to make sure the other spouse is not hiding assets or misstating income, and that all assets and debts are properly characterized as marital or separate property and given an accurate value. If your divorce involves complicated assets or high net worth, it is especially important to retain qualified, experienced legal representation to make sure you are not taken advantage of in the property settlement.